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Parenting plans can make child custody cases easier

You and your spouse have decided to get a divorce. Although you are ready to move on with your own individual lives, you are concerned about how the divorce will affect the time you have with your children.

The good news is that most parents going through divorce in New Jersey and elsewhere resolve their child custody cases outside of court by creating parenting plans. Here is a glimpse at what these types of agreements entail.

What are parenting plans?

A parenting plan is essentially an agreement where you and your future ex-spouse finalize in detail your issues involving visitation and child custody. You can arrive at this type of plan through informal negotiations -- an alternative to traditional divorce litigation.

What information do parenting plans feature?

Parenting plans vary widely based on individual couples' needs and desires. However, they usually cover a few core areas as follows:

  • How you and your spouse will handle changes to your agreement or disputes arising from it
  • How you will handle contact between your children and family friends or grandparents, for example
  • Which parent will spend which holidays or birthdays with the children
  • Who will have legal custody of the children, meaning he or she can make decisions regarding the children's welfare and upbringing
  • Who will have physical custody of the children, meaning the children will live with him or her

You can also discuss in your parenting plan what the non-custodial parent's visitation schedule will be.

Receiving approval from the court for your parenting agreement

After you and your future ex have completed your parenting plan, you will submit it for court approval. Your judge might ask you some basic questions concerning the agreement -- for example, whether you both understand the agreement and choose to enter into it voluntarily. If your judge feels that the agreement is fair -- in other words, it does not heavily favor one parent over the other -- then you can expect him or her to approve your plan.

If your ex-spouse ends up violating the plan at some point, it is within your rights to proceed to court to resolve this matter. For instance, if your ex keeps returning your children to you late following his or her weekend visits with them, you can take steps to enforce your parenting plan in court.

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